Alliance of Liberals and Democrats of European Parliament will reject ACTA
11:52am | 25 April 2012 | by Raegan MacDonald, English
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) of the European Parliament announced at a press conference today that they will reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). This makes yet another party, along with the Greens/EFA, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the European United Left (GUE/NGL) that have indicated that the group position is to vote “no” on ACTA in the final vote this July.
ALDE party leader, Guy Verhofstadt, said: "Although we unambiguously support the protection of intellectual property rights, we also champion fundamental rights and freedoms. We have serious concerns that ACTA does not strike the right balance."
"We remain supportive of multilateral efforts to protecting intellectual property rights but ones based on a sectoral approach and a transparent and publicly discussed mandate."
EPP Press Conference and the fallacy of “fixing” ACTA
The European People’s Party (EPP), also held a press conference on ACTA earlier today. The group (unsurprisingly) said in a roundabout way that most members plan to vote “yes” on the Agreement. However, there seems to be some misunderstandings, as the EPP Group also wants the Commission and the Member States to “fix it”. How anyone can “fix” a text that has been finalised and is not open to negotiation is beyond our understanding.
Recognizing the problems ACTA raises such as ISP policing (Article 27) and the vague definition of “commercial scale”, which may target regular internet users, their hope is that the Commission provides a non-binding promise that ACTA will not cause any problems. (We have mentioned this in previous posts - on “conditional consent”/"compromise" here).
However, it is worth pointing out that one of the most troubling aspects of ACTA -- obliging states to encourage “cooperative efforts” with third parties (such as ISPs) to prevent infringements -- will likely come from outside of the European Union, and therefore, far outside of the reach of the Commission to control. The US has long pushed its copyright agenda across borders far beyond its own (through proposals such as PIPA, SOPA) and by claiming de facto worldwide jurisdiction over domain names run by US companies (such as .com, .net, .cc, and .tv for example). One of several examples of this is in 2008, the domain name of a Spanish travel agency was revoked even though they were not accused of breaking any laws.
What can the Commission do when the US authorities seize a domain, delete a European site, block payment providers or ad networks operating in the EU, as they may be deemed to be infringing US copyright law? Nothing, since the US would be acting fully in line with the laws codified by ACTA.
ACTA's not over yet - let's keep up the pressure!
While today’s announcement by ALDE is absolutely good news, it’s not over until it’s over! These are public group decisions and therefore there are no guarantees what each individual MEP will end up voting in the end. Additionally, given the intense lobbying campaigns being launched by rightsholder groups, it is crucial that we do not let up! Want to help? Sign our petition urging the European Parliament to vote no on this dangerous Agreement. You can also personally reach out to your MEP -- German digital rights group Digitale Geseleschaft has set up a handy site to track the positions of MEPs (+ contact info) on ACTA -- so you can tell them personally why you think they should reject ACTA.